Survival of the Kindest

The new year provides such a wonderful opportunity for us to ponder the power and importance of kindness, compassion and our interconnected nature.

Almost 2,600 years ago the Buddha shared the insight that nothing has a separate self. In his book, My First Summer in the Sierra, published in 1911, the naturalist John Muir wrote, ”When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”

The Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh uses two words that he created, Interbeing and inter-are, to convey this idea of interdependence that include space and everything else.

In 1871 Charles Darwin wrote his first book about human nature titled, The Descent of Man. In The Descent of Man Darwin mentions his now highly popularized idea of survival of the fittest only twice and mentions love 95 times. He details how we humans have evolved as a species, noting that we’re not fast, we’re not strong, we don’t have big fangs, we don’t have the muscle mass that our primate relatives have, what we have is the ability to cooperate and to take care of each other. In it Darwin concludes that sympathy is the strongest instinct in human nature. Sadly, driven by cultural and individual biases, those that popularized his work ignored this most important observation.

Today there is a significant and growing body of research that shows the roots of kindness and compassion are biological, that we are in fact naturally born kind, compassionate and egalitarian—that it is in our DNA, our brain and our body. Upon birth we begin to endeavor in life as a means to learn as we grow. In that process our natural being is influenced by our culture, family, experiences and environmental factors. These factors and our repeated actions ultimately serve as the practice and building blocks that create our life skills, values and manner.

Dacher Keltner, Ph.D., founding director of the Greater Good Science Center and professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley states that, “There are very sound reasons, deep, survival related reasons for why we have evolved to be good to others.” “Because of our very vulnerable offspring, the fundamental task for human survival and gene replication is to take care of others.” ”Human beings have survived as a species because we have evolved the capacities to care for those in need and to cooperate. As Darwin long ago surmised, sympathy is our strongest instinct.”

As a nod to the misrepresented and distorted discoveries of Charles Darwin as popularized, specifically that being the improper perspective he asserted “survival of the fittest” as the most significant instinct, far greater than our instinct of sympathy, an improper notion still taught in many schools today, Keltner and his colleges initially called their scientific work and discoveries in this area, ”survival of the kindest.”

Today our most complete and contemporary scientific evidence firmly establishes that our human species has been successful primarily because of our inherent nurturing, altruistic and compassionate traits. Unfortunately, we have formed much of our modern world based on ill-informed, reinforced, contrarian values and ideals. In this space and time separation, independence, scarcity, competition, consumption, accumulation and the mantra that one needs to be significant at expense of others, are the misbeliefs taught and reinforced as the greatest truths and ideals.

It is when we begin to externalize factors as individuals that we profoundly exacerbate and perpetuate this. In this practice of separation we declare that our self-interest and beliefs or those of focus, matter above all else to the extent that we exclude consideration of the relationship and impact that exists with all other elements. Regrettably, this is in direct conflict with what spiritualists have long represented and science now proves to be true.

The greatest minds align in this regard. Here are four examples of what could fill volumes.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche shares that “Cherishing the I is opening the door for all the problems, all the obstacles, all the undesirable things; and cherishing others is the source of all the happiness, opening the door for all the happiness for oneself.

Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh writes, “People normally cut reality into compartments, and so are unable to see the interdependence of all phenomena. To see one in all and all in one is to break through the great barrier which narrows one’s perception of reality.”

Nobel laureate, Archbishop Desmond Tutu states that “The solitary human being is actually an impossibility. You come into being because a community of two persons happened. I wouldn’t be able to know how to speak as a human being, I wouldn’t know how to be a human, I wouldn’t know how to walk as a human being if I had not learned it from other human beings and so I depend utterly, completely, on other human beings in order for me to be human. And so the truth, yes, the truth of who we are, is that we are because we belong.”

His Holiness the Dalai Lama states that, “Cultivating a close, warmhearted feeling for others automatically puts the mind at ease. From the least to the most important event, the affection and respect of others are vital for our happiness.”

Whatever our individual faith or passions may be it only requires looking deeply to see what is true. When we truly look deeply we see with perfect clarity that every single thing is possible only because of the existence of everything else and that the manner in which each element occurs in its existence impacts everything else as whole in some way.

Just as interwoven, science shows that in practicing our ability to care; it becomes less likely that we become overwhelmed ourselves, our ability to experience compassion and benevolence grows as does our ability to truly see and feel our world around us. So you can see whatever your motivation, self or other, the results are the same and worthwhile.

The honey bee is a beautiful example of our interwoven connection in our world and the importance of kindness and compassion in it.

We invite and share with you this video on kindness, which comes from our early elementary school curriculum, in hopes that it might encourage all of us to water our seeds of kindness in every action we take in this new year. For yourself, everyone you love and our world around us, we our hope that you enjoy this opportunity to consider the limitless potential and possibility of nurturing, watering and growing what is already inherent, true and the best in each of us.

Happy New Year and love from Bee Love Farm.

Kalyne, Buzz, Leilani, Maddie, Ashley, Ally and Grace